K-ON! The Movie (Cert PG)
2 Discs DVD/BD Combo (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 111 minutes approx.
Four fifths of Hokage Tea Time, the all girl rock group formed as part of the Light Music Club at Sakuragaoka Girl’s High School, are close to graduating but are unsure how to mark the occasion. After hearing fellow classmates discussing their plans for a trip abroad, HTT decide they will do the same and book a trip to the rock ‘n’ roll capital of the world – London!
Everyone’s favourite moe rock band gets the big screen treatment. It contains all your favourite characters, much of the same quirky humour, silly set ups and an unashamedly cheerful pop rock soundtrack including some new songs, complete with the cheesy, seemingly mundane lyrics that don’t quite translate too well into English. After all, when did the Beatles or Led Zeppelin every sing about “Rice As A Side Dish”?
While for many the trip to London is the key enticement to view this film, it does in fact only play a small part of the story. The main plot line revolves youngest band member Asuza who will be left behind once her senior bandmates, Yui, Mitsu, Mio and Mugi graduate. Asuza, arguably the most sensible out of the group despite her being the junior, believes the others are acting more peculiarly then usual and begins to have concerns as to why she appears to be excluded from their conversations. The truth is that they want to leave her with something special before they go but are not sure what to do. The trip to London is a slight sidetrack although into plays into the end result.
All of you fellow Brits will be pleased to know that the London set portion of the film is quite possibly the most authentic seen in anime or indeed any foreign production. Director Naoko Yamada brought a team of artists over to our capital to make notes and take photographs of the landmarks, streets, shops, buildings, the underground and even the people to ensure maximum accuracy in the depictions and it paid off with dividends. Yamada also went to great lengths to get native English speakers for the voices so only the main cast are left to amuse us with their “Engrish”, although they sound damned cute doing so. The only minor quibble is a couple of the English voices sound more American that British but on the whole, a good old British accent is the predominant one heard in these scenes.
Of course it wouldn’t be K-ON! without the girls getting into some incredulous mix ups and here is no different. Not content with arriving at the wrong hotel because they don’t understand English they end up at a Sushi bar hoping to eat but instead are mistaken for another Japanese band booked to play, in a case of singing of their supper – sans the supper! Yamada was also keen to observe the various differences and pitfalls Japanese tourists face upon arriving on a fair shores, and relays them with gentle humour and not the expected stereotyping one might expect.
Back home and the girls are looking for a way to end their school tenure on a high note so once again it is the irrepressible teacher/group advisor Sawako Yamanaka aka Sawa-chan to provide a very noisy and rebellious solution. Credit to Reiko Yoshida’s screenplay, the ending is never allowed to sink into the maudlin and slushy, even with the hugely emotional and sweet ending we all knew was coming. The benefit of the film’s 110 minute running is that the songs get a full airing rather than the couple of verses we might get on the 23 minute TV shows. And, as before, they’re pretty good too.
Aside from the London scenes, the quality of the animation isn’t that far removed from the TV shows, making this feel more like an extended TV episode than a feature film but I can’t see many K-ON! fans being to disappointed with this. If anything, this film shows that K-ON! isn’t the one note joke its detractors might label it as, and is substantial enough to stretch to a feature length production with ease and is hugely enjoyable to boot.
It is worth drawing your attention to the extras on this Blu-ray set which show us just how major an impact K-ON! has made on popular culture in its native Japan. The inevitable merchandising notwithstanding the voice artists are all musicians themselves and have taken the band on the road, each one reprising their TV roles for real, right down to playing the same instruments; and yes bassist Yōko Hikasa (Mio) is left handed too! The reaction from the fans at the jam packed Saitama Super Arena is nothing short of incredible!
Of particular interest to us Brits will be the feature on director Naoko Yamada making her way through London with her camera for research, visiting sights which will be familiar to many of you! So if anyone saw a small Japanese woman with a camera popping up around London and being followed by a film crew a couple of years back, now you know who it was and why!
Bottom line: if you’re a fan of the TV show then chances are you will enjoy this film too; if not stay away – it’s that simple.
English Language DTS-HD Audio
Japanese Language w/ English Subtitles
Minami Tanaka’s Dubbing Investigative Report
London Bus & Press Conference at TBS
Navi Show 1-2-3 Is K-ON!
Movie Premiere Event
Director Naoko Yamada In London
Good Luck Music Hall – K-ON! Music Hall
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Ratings – ****
Man In Black